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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Charles and Adam, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013)

Michael Riley

inkjet print on paper (frame: 55.5 cm x 43.4 cm, image: 53.0 cm x 40.9 cm)

Charles Perkins AO (1936–2000) was an Indigenous rights campaigner and bureaucrat. Son of a Kalkadoon father and Arrernte mother, as a youth in Adelaide Perkins was a sought-after soccer player; after completing a trade apprenticeship, he played professionally in England. Widely credited as the first Indigenous person to attain a bachelor's degree from an Australian university, he graduated in Arts at the University of Sydney in 1966. In 1965, he had been a prominent organiser of and participant in the anti-discrimination ‘freedom rides’ through country NSW. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s he was involved in many organisations promoting Aboriginal rights, welfare and advancement. In 1972, the year he received a kidney transplant, he appeared at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Five years later, having weathered a suspension from the Commonwealth Public Service and having published his autobiography, he joined the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, of which he was Secretary from 1984 to 1989. Perkins continued his involvement in various sports, particularly soccer, until he died. He was accorded a State funeral, held in Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2013
© Michael Riley/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2013.50.9

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Michael Riley (age 30 in 1990)

Charles Perkins AO (age 54 in 1990)

Adam Perkins

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins
Michael Riley's portraits video: 4 mins

Michael Riley's portraits

Portrait story

Linda Burney, Brenda Croft and Darrell Sibosado share memories of Michael Riley and his photographic practice.

Tracey, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1986 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Tracey, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1986 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Tracey, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1986 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Tracey, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1986 (printed 2013) Michael Riley

Sophisticated and glamorous

Magazine article by Amanda Rowell, 2015

Michael Riley’s early portraits by Amanda Rowell.

Hetti, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Hetti, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Hetti, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013) Michael Riley
Hetti, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013) Michael Riley

Beauty and strength

Portraits by Michael Riley

Previous exhibition, 2014

Influential Indigenous Australian artist Michael Riley (1960 - 2004) created these portrait photographs between 1984 and 1990 - they stand as an intricately connected group portrait of the vibrant urban-based Indigenous arts community in Sydney's inner-west at a formative moment.

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.